November is National Novel Writing Month—or NaNoWriMo—the time when people of all ages and walks of life commit themselves to writing a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. WXPR’s Emily Bright sat down with Beckie Jokie, municipal liaison of the Northern Wisconsin chapter.
Beckie Joki is a competitive bass fisherman and a freelance writer living in Woodboro, and the month of November--
"It’s been a little bit busy," she says.
But that’s normal.
"I’ve been doing National Novel Writing Month for seven years," Jokie explains, "so after a few years you kind of get an idea of how to plan your time and how long it’s gonna take you to write 2000 words a day …
2000 words is about 8 double-spaced pages. Every day, with no time off for Thanksgiving.
"I like to keep my storyboard right in the middle of the house like where I’m making dinner," Jokie says, "and I’ll look over and I’m look, Ooh, I have a great idea and I can stick this little post-it note on and then go back with what I’m doing."
EB: So, you’ve written a novel every year for the last 7 years?
EB: So, what happens to them afterwards?
BJ: Um, actually unfortunately most of them have just hung out and just sat there. I like to let them sit for at least two years before I look at them again so I can look at them with fresh eyes and say “wow, you really wrote that? that’s horrible! or hey, I like that part.
EB: so, what keeps you coming back?
BJ: I think it’s just because it’s such a challenge. And it’s just like, you have a plan, but you don’t really know what’s going to happen to it. um, I have a character now that all of a sudden that has a dog, and I’m not really sure where he came from but then she meets a guy that I didn’t know she was going to meet…I know they’re important but I won’t know until I write this part.
EB: so there’s a sense of writing from discovery to discovery
BJ: right! Right, so it’s mostly…you have a plan but you built your characters, and you have to let them do things that feel right to them.
EB: so at what point in the month do you start to feel like your characters are talking to you? Or does that happen to you?
BJ: I would say right about now. All of a sudden a girl goes and gets a dog and I go, well, she is in her early 30s, she can do what she wants. So you just kind of have to let it go with that.
Me: what about the real people in your life, do you just say ‘I’ll see you in a month?’”
BJ: most people kind of understand. My family understands. My dogs don’t get it, they just look at me like why are you staring at that at that thing some more?
That’s the thing about writing: ultimately, it’s a solo pursuit. But during NaNoWriMo, you’re not alone.
BJ: exactly, there’s other people that are doing the same exact thing.
EB: Even if it’s crazy.
BJ: Right. and if you have a problem, 17 other people have that problem.
That’s what Facebook is for, and the NaNoWriMo page, and the online chat Joki organizes once a week as municipal liaison.
Jokie explains, "I’d sent out a regional email that said, like if you have a character that’s just not going to fit in your novel, everyone else has the same problem, so talk to someone about it. If you’re stuck at a certain point, everyone else has this problem. If you have a character who really needs a 39 Buick, well you might be on your own about that but still talk to people about it."
There are LOTS of people to talk to: 525 members in northern WI, according to the NaNoWriMo website, but the number that matters is how many stick with it past the first week or so.
"I think I have 50-some people that are active," says Jokie.
Maybe 10 percent of those who start out, keep going. Joki says she’s heard from lots of first-timers trying to figure out how to proceed.
"Most of the time just, where do you find the time to write is a big one," Jokie reports. "And I say, you can’t find it you just have to make the time….If you write 25,000 words this month, that’s 25,000 more words than you would have written, so really, you’re still ahead of the game.
Every word counts.
In the last two years, Northern WI region has written more words per person than any other region in the state.
And if you win, if you get 50,000 words, NaNoWriMo’s sponsors give you discounts on their products.
"And you get a little certificate," Jokie describes, "and I print those out and I save them all."
It’s pretty self-motivated. As with most of her November novels, this one is a mystery. It’s called Secrets on the Bottom.
BJ: This particular girl started with a girl who is a fisherman who was using her electronics and found a car that was submerged in the lake. And it wound up to have a person in it who was hand-cuffed to the steering wheel, but it wasn’t his car, and then obviously I don’t give away the end...
Lately Joki’s been considering revising one of her NaNoWriMo novels for publication. But she can’t think about that in November.
EB: what’s dec 1st like for you?
BJ: Dec 1st I usually go out to dinner, just have a nice long relaxing dinner and maybe just unplug for the day not even turn on a computer…
EB: is there a letdown afterward? or is it relief?
BJ: I think it’s kind of a little of both. it’s a mix of aww, now that’s over…but at the same time you can actually sit down and have conversations with people and post in forums and celebrate what everybody did.
EB: do you feel like you’ll just keep going?
BJ: I think I will. It just becomes part of you after a while….If you do Nana a couple of times, you’re going to keep doing it.
Beckie Joki’s on track to “win” again this year. Good luck to all the writers out there.